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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter: AKA: The End of an Era

Ok fair warning if you haven't read the books or seen the movies, stop reading right now and go do that. As much as I would like to do a whole spoil free entry here it's not gonna happen. So if you haven't read/seen them...go do it now.

Over the past few weeks Final Potter Mania has swept the globe, and for almost just as long I have been trying to write some sort of cohesive wrap up. All attempts thus far have failed, until now.

I've been having difficultly wrapping my brain around the fact that it's all ending. That's not to say that JK Rowling won't write more stories, Lord knows she's got a WEALTH of knowledge of these characters and their stories that we have yet to see, and we have PotterMore to look forward to. Most likely at some point in time there will be other movies made, but for this particular sect of the franchise it all ends here.

The cast of the films, which surprisingly and gratefully, has remained the same (save for a few unavoidable instances), was FILLED of amazing veteran as well as plenty of wonderful new comers. It's hard to grasp that these amazingly talented performers will never again be all together as these characters. The movies were made over a span of 10 years, some of us grew up with them, all of us watched the stars grow up together.

The first book was released in the US September 1, 1998, though I didn't read it till a few years later when I was in High school. My older sister is a middle school English teacher, and she handed me her copy of the first book telling me I HAD to read it. So I did, I devoured it and then read the second and ached for the third book to be released. From then on, I got each book the day of it's release and stayed up WAY too late reading them. I remember sitting in the family den, tears streaming down my face when Dumbledor died, I realize I'm a dork and embrace it. I laughed out loud many times while reading the LARGE tomes on the subway during my commutes. I would call my friend Jen, and it didn't matter how long it had been since we had last talked we would have LONG conversations on each book. There came a time, for the last two books actually, when Jen was traveling over seas when the book was released, no matter, our extensive convos took place over email.

I admit to having gone to more then a couple midnight showings of the films, proudly sporting my "Ron" t-shirt, getting lost in the crazy excitement of the experience of sharing these stories with other people who we so invested. Last week, I hauled ass down to South Jersey after work on Thursday night to be able to see the Imax 3D showing of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 with friends from college at 3am, because midnight showings are for sissies! Actually it was because the midnight imax showing was sold out, but that is besides the point. The point was that here I sat on the night of it's release surrounded by friends and strangers all of whom felt a connection to this story.

I thought the movie, as a whole, was done amazingly well, with so many things done right. Of course the movie isn't perfect, there are plenty of things I would have liked to see/see a little differently.

5 Things I LOVED:

1) Snape's memory sequence. This was by far my favorite part of book seven. All the years of debate over Severus' loyalty, the reason for his strong dislike toward Harry, essentially the motivation for EVERYTHING he has ever done revealed to us. I have to confess, this was the one scene/sequence I was worried about. How could it possibly live up to what I had built up in my mind? Despite the alterations made to the memories, I thought the film handled it beautifully. The added part of Snape finding Lily's body after the murders, gave Alan Rickman a time to shine.  I'll admit it, I full OUT SOBBED from his death though the end of his memories. It took HUGE amount of effort to do it (mostly) silently btdubs.

2) Neville! Yeay for Neville! I got giddy as he started to appear in the picture.  His speech to Voldemort and the Death Eaters gave me chills.  The journey his character made was amazing, because Neville has always been there, trying to do what is right. In The Sorcerer's Stone, or The Philosopher's Stone, depending on where you live, he tries to stop Harry, Ron and Hermione from sneaking out because he doesn't want them to get the house in trouble. He is awarded then for his bravery for making the difficult choice and standing up for what he believed was right. Here again Neville stands up for what he knows is right. His speech about how Harry is always with them, in their hearts, which echos what Harry was told by his family, yes I count Sirius & Lupin as family, in the forest. The seventh book shows just how far Neville has come and I was glad that the movie showcased that.

3) The chamber of secrets scene. This was only alluded to in the book so it was nice to actually get to see it. And get some more screen time with Ron and Hermione. Though the reason for the kiss was changed, it kinda had to be since Hermione's obsession with freeing the house elves was deeply diminished in the movies, I was still completely blissful over it. I remember reading "the kiss" for the very fist time and  shrieking out loud with joy. On screen it totally held up. Well done, Rupert & Emma!

4) The moments in the Great Hall when Snape gathers everyone in order to find Harry. Different from the book, yes but still an amazing scene. The way Harry steps forward, and the members of The Order enter the hall & stand behind him ready to fight and die for the cause. The way the whole group as well as his friends from school gather around him to protect him when it is suggested the hand him over to Voldemort. Props to Maggie Smith for making McGonagall one of the greatest teachers ever. Her fierce determination to protect Harry show in her battle with Snape in the Great Hall maybe one of my favorite moments in all the movies.

5) Helena Bottom Carter's Hermione's Bellatrix. Brilliant. Proof that the woman is an amazing actress. Her deliciously awkward movements, the fact that she made it appear as though she couldn't walk in her own heels, everything about it was flawless.

5 (-ish) Thing I wasn't completely thrilled about:

1) The battle scene at Hogwarts. Ok so let me explain, over I was happy but certain things were missing from the battle that made it less epic then it actually was. The Centaurus & house elves join in the battle. It is a turning point and it would have been nice to see it.

2) Percy's return/Fred's death. Ok I admit to the fact that going into the movie there was only one or two details I remembered clearly. However the one thing that stuck out VERY CLEARLY in my mind was this scene. First off Percy returning to fight with his family for the Order was a big freaking deal. [Check fact: He'd been gone for so long, and didn't even come to his own brothers wedding. ] That's something that should have had some recognition, not just a shot of him standing on the steps during Neville's speech. All that aside let's get to the real reason I was annoyed, in the film we NEVER get to see Fred's death. Fred's death scene was the ONLY thing I remember clearly from reading the book all those years ago, I think mostly because I was so shocked I reread the scene like three times before I could process/accept that it had actually happened. Not getting to see this on film made me crazy. I may or may not have walked out of the theatre shouting "that scene better be a special feature on the damn dvd!"

3) The final showdown was supposed to be in front of EVERYONE in the Great Hall. I understand it may have looked cooler/been easier for the film to have the epic courtyard battle, but I prefer the way it was originally written. In front of everyone. Harry trying to appeal to Voldemort's compassion. The explanation of the Elder Wand. A true final show down.

4) The flash forward. It was too short. I felt it should have been a little longer, to make it actually worth it. In the book we get to learn a little more about a bunch of the characters. The movie made it more like "oh look, they all got a little fat".

5) Then there were just a few odds & ends that I wasn't overly found of. In the book McGonagall sends the underage children away before the battle begins. I always thought that showed her maternal side. Also I think it makes it even stronger when you see the younger students who sneak back &/or refuse to leave to fight for what they believe in. Not getting to see Hagrid during the battle, & then him not being the blubbering mess you know he would be when he thought Harry was dead. I realize it was a character choice to go the stoic route, but that's not how I envisioned it. In the book Voldemort protected Nagini in a magic cage until he believes that Harry is dead. It seemed a little careless to me that movie Voldemort just let her slither about. Speaking of Nagini, Neville should have gotten to kill her at the end of his speech, that whole chasing after Ron & Hermione, the will Neville get to them in time, could have been better spent, say on Fred's death scene maybe? Also I realize it is not cost effective for a movie but in the book's final battle we see the Colin Creevey returned & died fighting, and that Oliver Wood has returned, as well as several others. Although I admit there were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. Finally, how was Luna so clear/unscathed at the end of the battle?

But again, all that is just when I get to nitpicking (well except for Fred's death), over all I was very happy with final movie. It's easy to over look all the little things that may have not been exactly what I expected because honestly the franchise really got so much of it right, and let's be honest, it would be impossible to get it all in.

Harry Potter was/is the great escape of our generation. Hell they built a whole theme park about it, which they need to make bigger by the way. It gave us characters to love & hate, showed us that things are not always what they appear, and that really anyone can grow up to be a hero.

I honestly feel a little bad for everyone who reads/watches the series now, who missed out on the excitement of waiting for midnight book/movie releases. Who, in this world of Wiki & Google, will never get into full out debate wars over Snape's allegiances.

I will miss the world of Harry Potter deeply. It truly is the end of an era. One I was more than happy to be a part of.

Though as JK Rowling reminded everyone at the London premier of the final film, "Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."

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